We ended 2020 with promise and possibility. A vaccine for the Corona Virus, a woman of color to be our next Vice President, Black Lives Matter at the forefront, a congress and senate that is diverse and representative of our nation. And then on Wednesday January 6th, 2021 a mob of pro-Trump people stormed the State Capital following a rally where President Trump “falsely claimed of widespread voter fraud.” The New York Times reports, “Hundreds of people barreled past fence barricades and clashed with police officers in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College results.” The mob smashed windows and broke through the main doors moving freely throughout the building, some vandalizing statues, carrying confederate flags, and taking pictures of their endeavors. The images displayed through social media and presented on news evoked feelings of terror, embarrassment, and appal.
Reactions around the globe are of disdain, dismay, and doubt of the stability of the United States Democracy. It was the War of 1812 when the British set fire to the Capital building. And now in 2021, a collective of Pro-Trump Americans inciting violence and treason stormed the capital building. History is being made everyday.
How do we as history and English teachers address these events in a ways that promotes conversation, not division and greater divide?
Depending on the age level of your students, here are some possible avenues to engage in conversations in our classrooms relating to yesterday’s events.
- Examine The History of the US Capitol Building through Architect of the Capital website published by the government. On the website it states, “The history of the United States Capitol Building begins in 1793. Since then, the U.S. Capitol has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended and restored.. . . it stands as a monument to the ingenuity, determination and skill of the American people.”
- Teach a lesson on Fake News. So much of what Trump has posted on Twitter and spoken about to the country is false. He throws around the concept of “fake news” since the beginning of his presidency. But what really is fake news and which information is correct? Check out the New York Times Fact Checks website that details the falsehoods and misleading statements from our political leaders. Although the Newseum in Washington, DC closed its doors last year, their resources for Fake News lesson plans and resources from the Education Department are very valuable.
- Re-examine the Constitution and the 25th Amendment. Right now the conversation is whether Trump is fit to hold office for the remaining 13 days. Trump has shown over the past four years his disregard of the Constitution. Allow students to closely study the Constitution and decide whether or not Trump should remain in power. For more historical details and debates, check out Representative Barbara Jordan’s speech on impeachment back in 1974.
4. Read a Dystopian Text. Right now my students are reading Animal Farm and although Orwell wrote this book to parody the Russian Revolution, there are so many passages that connect with our political parties today. Whether addressing propaganda or rebellion, revolt, and revolution, these fiction tales of dystopian communities are a mirror to current events. Essential questions can address, Does power have to corrupt? and Can we protect ourselves from manipulation?
5. Parlay, a discussion based platform and learning tool, showcased two lessons reflecting on January 6, 2021. Both addressing topics of government and civics. In one discussion prompt students respond to the provided questions or post a question of their own. The following sources are used to kickstart the discussion:
- AP PHOTOS: Scenes of violence at U.S. Capitol shock world
- Capitol has seen violence over 220 years, but not like this
- Twitter Locks Trump’s Account, Warns Of ‘Permanent Suspension’ If Violations Continue
- “America” by Claude McKay
- A Capitol in Ruins
Parlay has many more government and civics related lessons. The questions designed by Parlay can also be used for online discussions on a Google Jamboard, Padlet, or Flipgrid responses.